Living life a quarter mile at a time

A couple days ago, the people over at the Humble Bundle finally dropped their monthly bundle. There were a few standout games that caught my eye but I will be honest, Switchcars was not one of those games. However, once I decided to load up this ‘vehicular rogue-like’ game, I was pleasantly surprised. It was like finding that elusive piece of pizza that had been sitting at the back of the fridge for days, sure I was hesitant to try it at first, but after going for it, I was glad I did.

‘Switchcars’ was developed by Slobodan Stevic, originally a 3d artist who worked on several games in the industry including, but not limited to, Space Engineers and Infinity: Battlescape. This experience is immediately evident as Switchcars boasts some impressive graphical details. The pixel art is distinct and colorful and your vehicle can get coated in mud and slime. The alien worm antagonist stands out vividly, with its bright green exterior and its hulking frame. One nitpick would be that the resolution seems to be currently locked at 1200×800, and as a result this leads to black bars on the screen when using a high resolution monitor.

switchcars_2015-06-06_0094
Dude, where’s my car?

What is the goal of Switchcars? It is simple, you need to travel from the 1950s to the 2050s whilst at the same time trying to avoid becoming dinner for a tenacious and pissed off Alien worm. To achieve this, you have to constantly switch between vehicles. The game also features 9 different lanes. This may seem straightforward until you realize that the terrain also changes at set intervals during each stage. That car that you just had? Yeah it is in the river now. That is a nice train you have there, shame you are now on the road. This leads to some  intense and nail biting moments where you have to think on your feet and also have a contingency plan in place. You are able to save vehicles in 3 different slots but each vehicle can get damaged and depending on the vehicle type, will need fuel. There are 40 different power ups scattered across the 10 stages, some of these can upgrade your cars to get special abilities, like a helium balloon that allows you to take your car into the air, or a nifty turret that will destroy anything that was unlucky enough to be in your path.

The game isn’t limited to just vehicular play. You can also roam around on foot and traverse the area with the help of a special grappling hook, although you have utilize this tool attentively or you may find yourself as road kill for the oncoming traffic. It was at these moments that I feel like a 2-bit Rico Rodriguez, grappling from car-to-car, furiously trying to get to the ‘safe zones’ at the end of each stage.

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Nothing like a nice peaceful drive through the countryside.

The game has a variety of different vehicles to fool around with. Currently there are 1,047 different vehicles you can utilize in your bid to escape the aforementioned hungry alien worm. There are also 101 different types of terrains, this leads to the need for constant micro-managing of your 3 slots as you need to ensure that you have the different types of vehicle, be it a plane or a bike or even a train, to survive the game’s ever changing terrain. I have yet to master these tools and ascend to stage 10, but unlike Sisyphus, the rock shall one day stay atop the mountain and I will reach stage 10!

It must also be noted that the game does have a few problems. Apart from the resolution issue, there is also no way to turn down the game’s sound. Only an option to turn on or off. Although I am sure the developer is aware and working on this. The game can also get quite repetitive once you have mastered the initial mechanics. This can get frustrating for players looking for more depth in the game. However, as the game is still in early access, the developer still has time to address these issues. Currently it is very fun is bite-sized chunks.

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This runway was nearly as long as the one in Fast and Furious 6

Overall, just like in the game, there is still a long road for the developer to traverse. So far, the charm and fun that can be had from these short ‘runs’ through the game have been well worth my time. This game has only been released in early access on steam so I am sure there will be future updates that address some of the issues and improve upon the game play. So far it has been a fun and chaotic romp through the game’s stages. One day I shall reach the space craft in 2050!

Early Access on steam. Release date: 05/03/2016. 

Hours played: 1.4

I will revisit and review this game upon the full release. 

Update 1: The developer has released a patch earlier today that fixes the resolution issues. The game can now be played at a 16:9 resolution and there is also a beta ‘fit screen’ feature.

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